When the state’s new health insurance exchange opens on October 1, two enrollment center storefronts should be open for business.
Already leased is a 2,000-square-foot space at 200 Main Street in New Britain. The other likely will be at 55 Church Street in New Haven, where a contract was pending as of press time.
“We have an LOI letter of intent),” explains Eric Amodio, a commercial broker with Farmington-based Amodio & Co. who has been scouting locations in both cities for the exchange, Access Health, since the end of this May.
“They came to us with some parameters,” Amodio explains. “They’re trying to get a highly trafficked area in as prime a spot as they can afford. First they were looking at shopping centers. But any of the good ones don’t have any space, which led us to retail stores, around 2,000 to 2,500 square feet.
“Because of the extent of the sign up period, they were looking at one-term leases, and a lot of landlords didn’t want to deal with that,” Amodio added. “It just kind of boiled down to which spots would take them.”
In New Britain, there were five options, “but with delays several were snapped up,” Amodio says. The space he was able to lease, at 200 Main Street, previously was an H&R Block location.
“New Haven was even harder,” Amodio adds. “There certainly was space available but certainly not in the condition the client wanted.”
Amodio came up with four options. Most were near the Green on Chapel Street. But the 2,800 square feet at 55 Church Street seemed best suited, because of its location, good condition and layout.
Access Health CEO Kevin Counihan has credited the Apple Store as the inspiration for the street-level state health-insurance enrollment center storefronts.
“Right when you walk in there’s a seating area where you can view a four- to five- minute video of whole [enrollment] process,” Amodio says. “Then there will be computer terminals where you can go and sign up. In the back there will be kind of like a help desk. They’re also looking to have a few private office rooms where insurance brokers can come in. At 55 Church Street there already are three offices built out in the space. “
Amodio said most of the storefronts “are going to be used as is, with minor improvements.”
They will be recarpeted and repainted, according to Tony Crowe, Access Health’s retail projects manager. “We have been negotiating a deal with Ikea to furnish them,” he adds. The storefronts also are being situated in “well-lit, safe neighborhoods with easy access to public transportation,” according to Crowe. “We want some foot traffic and some parking.”
The enrollment centers will be open daily: noon to 8 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays. “The plan is to get as many people as we can to sign up,” Crowe says.
The New Britain and New Haven storefronts are the pilots for other storefronts, which Access Health CEO Kevin Counihan has said could open in other cities, including Hartford, Bridgeport, Danbury and Stamford.
Said Crowe, “Right now we’re concentrating on these two.”